For example, as it flows through the channels, a sample fluid containing bacteria would cause parts of the reflectors to go dark, signaling a positive test. If the fluid sample was free of the bacteria or disease-causing virus, the reflectors would shine brightly.
"Right now, we have seven channels in our device," researcher Balakrishnan Raja, part of Willson's team, said in a news release. "So we can test for seven different infections at once, but we could make more channels. That's one of our long-term goals - to multiplex the device and detect many pathogens at once."
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Normally, pathogen detection is an intricate process that involves extracting blood and labeling nucleic acids with special dyes, all of which requires elaborate instrumentation, complex optical equipment and time. Wilson and his colleagues are proposing a device that could provide more immediate results and is small enough to be carried by first responders or doctors.